Formed by vocalist Bryan Binneman, bassist Rayner Abraham and guitarist Chase Beynon in 2007. They added guitarist Ricki Allemann and Nemanja Stabic on drums, beginning the bands journey that is currently in its 11th year. The band released their debut ep ‘What If They Run’ in 2009 and have since released ‘This Is Hate City’ (2012) and ‘Chapters’ (2013).
Known for their style that blends elements of Metalcore, Punk, Thrash and Hardcore Facing the Gallows are also well known for their high energy and explosive live performances from small club stages to large festival shows. They have played every major festival in South Africa including Oppikoppi, RAMfest, Woodstock, Krank’d up, Thornfest, and Splashy Fen (to name a few).
Since forming, Facing the Gallows have opened for international acts such as August Burns Red, Every Time I Die, Darkest Hour, Our Last Night, The Ghost Inside, Affiance, Underoath, Asking Alexandria, Have Heart, Shipwreck, Unearth and Protest the Hero.
In April 2018 Facing the Gallows are joining Secrets on their South African Tour. For the rest of the 2018 calendar, the band will be working alongside Jam Packed Productions touring with international acts Fit for A King, Dance Gavin Dance, Our Last Night and Hands like Houses in early 2019.
I recently had a chat to James Irving from Johannesburg Metal Titans Facing The Gallows (who released their new album, Dead Mindset, in February 2018).
In 2008, I returned from UK after studying music and partying with the gents that side and I was invited to go to Roxy’s and watch a few bands. If I remember correctly, it was Fear of Falling, We Shall Embrace and you guys, and you guys were awesome! I still remember Fourie was sound tech, Bryan had the Emo hair thing going and was sporting some really tiny shorts. The gig was awesome! What drives you guys to do what you do, and how have you kept the energy for so many years?
Hahahaha Bryan and a pair of short shorts is pretty unforgettable. We’ve just spent a year in studio and didn’t play any shows during that time period. It was heavy, once the album dropped I think we all felt pretty burn out with all the work that went into the recording side and all the admin behind it. But once we played the first leg of our tour it was a huge boost to the Facing The Gallows system. Playing shows, performing to our fans and jamming with our homies in other bands. That’s what keeps the momentum going. There is nothing better than being on stage especially in front of our crowds. Its chaotic, wild, the energy and the borderline insane behaviour that’s what makes everything worth it. There’s no better feeling standing on stage and looking out to everyone going ballistic. It’s the best!
How would you explain your sound to a brand new listener?
We play fast-paced neck snapping bouncy grooves that get you pumped up to destroy the day. Once you hit the play button its game over. Especially on Dead Mindset where we feel there’s a broad spectrum of styles to cater for any pallet.
Your latest singles, “Time Keeper” and “Doom ll”, are proper face-melters. How was the songwriting process? Has it changed much over the years? PS: Opening Riff for “Tides of Terror”: So mooi. So, so mooi. Just so mooi.
Before I joined the band, Bryan was probably the most active song writer. I have never seen someone so good at writing on guitar yet is one of the sloppiest guitarists I’ve seen. When I joined the responsibility shifted to Chase and myself. I’ve always been an active song writer before so once I was in Facing The Gallows it was all system go. There’s also a lot of room to write in the band. My previous bands where Thrash, Death Metal and Prog.
They have very strict guidelines when writing a song. With Facing The Gallows there’s no rules and the ability to go dark and heavy to melodic to dropping nukes gives you so much freedom as writer. I also feel Chase definitely came out of his shell on Dead Mindset, I especially encouraged it. So the dynamic and style definitely changed on the new record. There’s also a Gallows chord sequence that make anything sound like Facing The Gallows. Hahahaha, on Dead Mindset there’s a lot new flavours but there’s all the old traits that makes it Facing The Gallows.
The guitar work has a unique tone during the solos. For our musician readers, what was the rig used during the recording process? And, why Telecasters?
We really wanted to re-amp with live cabs and heads. But logistically and with time constraints in the studio we didn’t have the freedom to do so. So we used a Kemper with the Brian Hood tone pack from STL. Which ended up sounding killer! Do I still wish we could have done the live set up? Definitely, but we’re super happy with the way everything came out. We also love Telecasters. If we found a baritone Tele we would have done the whole album with it. Unfortunately it’s just the regular bad boy used on the solos. Which just has that perfect sound, shape and feel. Buy a Tele, its the best guitar!
You guys also recorded with Clinton Watts and Watts Productions. How crazy is that guy’s ears? I swear he can hear a mosquito fart and then know how to adjust the mids so it sounds pleasant. How long did you guys spend in the studio? Was there a specific song that was tough to record?
Hahahaha Clint is a Hawk eared machine! It’s amazing working with him. He pushes you to your best and then some. He’s pays attention to every little detail and will always go the extra mile to make something sound perfect. We recorded the album, spread out over a year or two including pre-production. So quite a long time, but there was no need to rush anything. We took our time and it’s definitely paid off. Each song had its own tough part or moment, yet not the section you would expect!! Like Virginia is the easiest song to play yet it was the most tricky to record. It seemed the simpler something was the harder it was to get right. Having said that, Illuminate is by far the most challenging to play live and was possibly the toughest to record. There’s a lot going on with that track and if it wasn’t for Chase, I would have made it a lot tougher.
Additional point, does Ray age? Do you think playing tight bass reverses aging, and should we sell this idea to cosmetic companies?
Hahahahaha it doesn’t look like he does. I can only assume his Moms cooking and his youthful attitude to life keeps the wrinkles at bay. The only time I’ve seen Ray look old was when we were jolling with Vic in Cape Town and the next day’s hangover almost destroyed him. That was a power session, Vic was a machine. Ray couldn’t handle it hahahaha. Which if you know Ray is unbelievable. But no one would believe what Vic was like either for that matter. Maybe we should bottle whatever Ray has and sell it as “Facing The Gallows Youth Juice”!
So far, what has been a highlight of being part of the South Africa Metal scene? What is it like to be considered legends within the scene?
It really means so much to us to do what we do and get the attention we have. It’s given us every opportunity to do everything there is to do here. The highlight is we get to play alongside killer international bands. We get the chance to see the country in ways that isn’t normal for others. Meeting incredible people across SA. It’s been a wonderful journey and we hope it never ends. It’s strange hearing that we’re considered Legends in the SA scene. Since we feel there’s still so much to do to earn that title. You look at bands like Pestroy, 16 Stitch, The Dead Will Tell and see that’s the bar they set.
We strive to push ourselves past that. Those are incredible bands, man. Game changers in local music. Once Pestroy called it a day we were the next “Big” Metal act to carry the torch. Whether we deserved it or not, it made us take what we do much more seriously. We feel we have a responsibilty like those bands to set the new standard. We push ourselves every day to deliver on those expectations and hope that we challenge and inspire others to do the same.
Best live gig memory?
For me nothing will beat playing “Doom” in an inflatable boat main stage at Oppikoppi. That is hands down the craziest thing I’ve ever done. When I look at the photos I just think “nothing will top that”. For the band, probably opening up for Darkest Hour. The connection for Bryan, Chase and Ray is extra special. Bryan and his old man were jamming DH in the car, door wide open, blasting it to 11. Chase and Ray heard it and stumbled towards the noise. If I’m not mistaken that was the first hang with those dudes and was the start of Facing The Gallows. So to open up for them was something else! Also any show we’ve played at Aandklas in Hatfield. Those crowds are the most special.
Any tips for young South African musicians?
Work hard, dedicate and learn to play with click. Focus every effort to make your live performances unforgettable. Talk, hang and support other local bands. Don’t get involved in the opinions or politics of others. Build your merch game. Acknowledge you do have fans, your band is important to them and treat them with respect. Don’t get hammered before a show. Keep your head screwed on because you’re part of something special that will change SA music and the worlds outlook on it. Don’t get too full yourself, there’s always someone better. Be cool, be humble and enjoy the ride.
Lastly, and most importantly, who would win in a fight between Julius Malema and a kilogram of Enterprise Polony?
I want to say Polony, so badly. But I think Juju will win because he’s a greedy prick and I rate he has the same DNA as Robert Mugabe. The only thing that’s killing them is a wooden stake and “fire pool” of holy water.
I’d like to thank James Irving and Facing The Gallows for this interview and I wish them all of the best with their future musical endeavours.
If you’re familiar with their sound, crank up their song “Tides of Terror” below:
Watch this space for regular updates in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.